I made a plan/goal recently and so hope to post chapters more frequently. Do note, though, that I have other stories I'm updating as well. Gotta share the love! Also, story picture suggestions? I'm still shuffling in my mind as to what I should use (see my note in the previous chapter for the random ideas I had). Opinions would be swell, although not necessary, of course. What is necessary, however, is the Author's Challenge! Obviously the word this time around will be "Galadriel." Seems fitting, don't you think?

~MisticLight

P.S. I don't even know how this chapter came to be so long. It just sort of happened. Probably won't happen again for a long while. So, uh, sorry if you detest long chapters. I also think this whole chapter may be a tiny bit dull. So I apologize for that too. BUT DON'T LET MY FOOLISH THOUGHTS SPOIL YOUR READING EXPERIENCE!

P.P.S. My birthday is tomorrow, October 14th. I'm just saying. Love you all. :]

~.~.~.~.

I was taken towards the Lord and Lady's chamber once more. Not even a day had passed since my last trip to the magnificent talan, yet here I was with my feet grazing the floor of the oval room. It was only when the Elf began ascending those stairs the Lord and Lady previously appeared upon that my stride paused. The absence of my following gate was easily detected by my guide. He turned back to me, "Tolo ar nin. ~Come with me. ~"

His voice was soft and patient, yet I bid him little attention for my eyes curiously traced the elegant archway above. "Ni ed aphadog han? ~I am to follow you there? ~" I questioned, allowing my gaze to trickle to the stairs. I may be standing in the Lord and Lady's chamber, but to enter their private quarters was something new entirely. I hadn't expected such a privilege.

All I was given was a simple nod and an expecting glance. Although initially hesitant, I pushed the foolish sensation away and forced myself up those daunting steps. With every stride I became more nervous, but I held my head high. I could not recall a time when a civilian was granted permission to enter the Lord and Lady's quarters, and this was dismissing the contact I lost during my many marchwarden years. So I represented the whole of Lórien. The least I could do for both Lady Galadriel and the people she watches over was appear composed when I made my appearance. She had to know her people were strong.

My guide proved to be an Elf of few words as he led me through rooms never before seen by Elves of my status. I was glad for it too because it allowed me to gaze at the riches inside the structured flet. It was engraved into the mallorn tree, but never did the wood appear to be altered. If the trunk curved, so did the room. If a branch cut through the middle, the floorboards simply dropped until all was clear. The architecture of this talan left me wordless; it was too beautiful to comprehend.

After a short walk, the tall Elf stopped before two large doors. The wood was darker than the surrounding wall, but the symbols engraved within matched flawlessly. My guide raised his hand to the design of a rounded wave pattern, as if to rap upon the frame, but his fist paused before touching the wood. I shot the limb a confused glance, but as I did, it moved towards the silver handles on the doors. With a small click and a soundless opening, I was led into the private chambers of Lady Galadriel.

The room was large and circular, just as their courtyard chamber had been. However, this room had filled floorings and seemingly more space. A large window right across from me let in the majority of light. It was shaped as a teardrop is, as if the mallorn tree had temporarily split apart just so the Lady could have an elegant window. A balcony jutted out from the base, but I could only see it when a light breeze lifted a thin curtain away from the frame. A table with two chairs sat in the middle of the room facing the window; while a light bed lied far to the side, almost out of view from those entering.

What caught my attention the most though was the bookcase to my left. Shelves protruded from the bark in an odd pattern. Again it was as though the tree had created these shelves specifically for Lady Galadriel. Perhaps the tree is alive, I thought before allowing my fingertips to brush against the doorframe. When I felt no hum of life tickling my fingers, I swiftly pulled back.

"Le hannon. ~Thank you. ~" A light voice sang into the silence. I scanned the room until my eyes rested upon Lady Galadriel. She stood before the far end of her bookcase, nodding towards my escort. He offered a nod back before bowing and departing from the room, slowly closing the doors behind him. So now I was left alone with the radiant Lady Galadriel, wondering how I had missed her when I first took in that side of the room. Her soft yet penetrating gaze suddenly turned to me, "Do you know why I have summoned you, Niaril, daughter of Neirin?"

"Simply Nia will do," I corrected so quickly I nearly interrupted the Lady. Slight panic filled me upon realizing what I had done, making my thumb dance across my fingertips. "My apologies, my Lady." A slight pause came forth as we stared at one another until I decided it would be best if I simply carried on the conversation. "I know not why you have called upon me," I replied with a soft shake of my head, my eyes never once backing away from her powerful stare.

Lady Galadriel's face glinted with the smallest embers of humor, but her appearance remained still. "Has there been nothing to draw your curiosity as of late?"

"Nothing I have not been able to figure out myself," I proudly declared from my position in the doorway. My thoughts lightly touched upon the Fellowship and the dream I had, but that was one puzzle even Lady Galadriel would not be able to decipher.

"Why do you choose not to speak your thoughts? They are of the correct nature." Her voice resounded in my head. "Do not hesitate to be yourself before me."

"You called me here to speak of the Fellowship?" I asked as I took a bold step forward. Then I thought better of it and retraced myself. "With all due respect, my Lady, will you remove yourself from my head? There are thoughts and memories I still wish to remain private."

"There is a purpose behind all I decide to do, Nia. Even without knowing of it, you have chosen the correct paths of those I presented to you. Truth has always lingered behind your actions." As Lady Galadriel spoke, she glided closer towards me. The tips of her fingers ran along the covers of numerous books as she walked, yet none made a sound. I became mystified by both her meaning and elegance.

By the time she reached me, I had already forgiven her for not addressing the second half of my question. "How can this be when I, not you, have always been the one to alter my own course?"

"I have only ever presented you with choices, never decisions. Your mind has always been your own, and so it shall remain." Lightly, she placed her long hands upon my shoulders and nodded to the table. "Come, let us be seated. There is much I must tell you."

We made our way to the center of the room and took a chair at opposite ends of the table. I simply sat upon my seat while she gracefully fluttered onto hers. There was such a contrast between us. She nearly glowed from the light trickling in from the window, whereas I undoubtedly appeared as any standard Elf would. Once more I found myself pondering over how I had been chosen by the Lady of the Galadhrim.

"This mallorn tree was the first I planted in this realm," she spoke while her eyes traced the edges of the balcony before us. "At first it was rebellious. It strove to reach out its branches and so unintentionally shelter the surrounding trees. The caretakers attempted to trim its sides, forcing it to be level with the others, but I refused such treatment to be cast upon it. I saw the promise it carried. I trusted it, and in turn the mallorn tree trusted me. Time passed, and soon the mallorn became the tallest of them all, while proving itself to be fair in nature. Because of my faith in its early years, Celeborn and I were permitted to build our talan within the mallorn's precious branches."

I remained silent, absorbing every word surpassing her lips. Lady Galadriel spoke of this tree as though it were a dear friend rather than a simple plant. Life lied within anything, I knew of this possibility. I had never witnessed someone speaking of them in such a regard though. The tales of life within Fangorn Forest were known and beloved to me, but listening to stories and actually observing an interaction were two very separate activities.

"Although the strength of its bark has thinned over time," Lady Galadriel continued, "I can yet sense its power. The mallorn has proven itself to me countless times over despite its age. My faith in it will never yield." Slowly, her vision slid from the wooded balcony to my face. Her eyes lit into a smile when they met mine, although her serious expression restrained it. "This is much of the story that came to mind when I first noticed you."

"My Lady!" I gasped, nearly falling forward with disbelief. "What have I done to become comparable with a tree?" I do not believe I shall ever voice that sentence again…

"There were many occasions," Lady Galadriel happily sighed, although I do not know whether it was because of my thoughts or shocked expression. "How you longed to travel with your father when he journeyed to outer cities. When your mother taught you of music and your polite patience would fade the longer the lesson ran. Your ambition of learning Common Tongue when those of this city have always found it impractical. The most important trait you carried was your keen interest with weaponry."

I fell back into my chair, looking anywhere but at her face. For as long as I could remember, I'd always been clear of my say in any matter. I would make sure all involved recognized every decision I made. Little had I known that I'd been observed throughout my years.

"You are aware I was not alone in expressing my interest?" I finally said after a lengthy pause. "Throughout my childhood, many my age idolized any Elf sacred enough to earn the title of Warden of Lórien."

"Unlike many of them, especially those of your gender, you held promise. So just as this mallorn tree, I allowed you to stretch your branches to whatever height they wished."

A new pause filled the room, except this time I could not hold still. I rose from my chair to pace before the seated Lady, all the while my fingers tapping upon one another. The mystery I refused to address of my childhood was suddenly becoming clear, and I couldn't tell whether to be grateful or scornful of its source. A crack now marred the vision of my past.

"The books..." I halted my feet before straying off. "The books of legends, creatures, and history; having to learn the placing of cities, forests, and rivers by heart; all the additional hours of archery and swordsmanship… all of it was because of you?"

She nodded, "Your training then led you to become a Warden of Lórien."

"I am truly thankful for your faith in me… yet also unsettled." My eyes darted across the floor at my feet before turning to face Lady Galadriel directly, "Forgive me, my Lady, but was I not to have a choice in my own life?"

"Nia, you have always held command of which road to take," she said before moving to stand before me. "As I previously mentioned, I have never graced you with decisions. Had you not accepted any of the patriarchy teachings presented to you, all would have ceased. The only influence I claim to truly hold is that of your acceptance into the Wardens of Lórien. None were desirous of allowing you to join simply because you are female. However, your determination was so strong and sincere that I offered my full, unwavering support. You were recruited shortly after."

"So had I not been willing to learn," I questioned so as to better understand this new turn of events, "had I not been so insightful and forceful with my views, I never would be in my current position? Never would have joined the marchwardens, be welcomed by Haldir and his brothers, met the Fellowship, or been called upon to grace your acquaintance?"

When she responded with a nod, I cast my eyes downward. "Well my life certainly would have reflected that of a dull Elleth of any given status. I do not care much for that dreary way of living." As soon as my thoughts became words with meaning, I cursed myself. My statement could have easily included Lady Galadriel herself. "I must express my apologies again, my Lady. I meant no offense."

"Do not regret your claims, Nia. Your bold expressions are known to me, curtsy of councils held with Haldir." Her confession left my cheeks reddening with both embarrassment and anger. I shot a mental glare at my friend, So he had spoken callously of me with Lady Galadriel. "You place much fault upon your companion. He only confessed upon my expressed wishes; it was his obligation to respond. Had it not been for him, I would not have witnessed your growth. You then never would have encountered the dream you cling to so dearly."

"You, my Lady, placed that dream into my head? … How?" I gaped, temporarily discarding my manners. I suppose I should not have been as surprised with this though because Lady Galadriel was known to possess special powers.

Rather than answer me, Lady Galadriel turned and walked through the thin curtains leading to the outdoors. Her form immediately melted into the light. "Well that certainly proves her title as the Lady of Light," I muttered before following her out to the balcony.

She stood at the railing with one hand delicately placed atop the structure. As soon as the curtains slid off my shoulder, she raised that hand to simply point at something below. I nearly ran the remaining space just to peer over the edge.

Caras Galadhon spread across the entirety of my vision. Its elegance was even lovelier from the height of Lady Galadriel's balcony. My eyes swept around the numerous objects going about the city, although they continuously latched onto the West most fountain. I scrutinized the space for any sign of the Fellowship, but found none. They were either exploring the city still or shaded under the cover of their pavilion. Something else caught my eye, though, the longer I gazed upon the Fellowship encampment; something to the South and down another level. It was small, a mere insect when compared to the thick tree behind. Although my vision did not fare as well as my hearing, I was still able to distinguish the tiny silver basin resting atop stone.

I felt my brows crease with confusion; I had no memory of it.

"That is the Mirror of Galadriel," the Lady enlightened after a pause. "And it shows many things. Things that were, are, and have not yet come to pass. Yet some still may never come to be. This is the reasoning behind your vision."

"But my Lady, I have never come across this Mirror. How could it possibly invade my mind if its waters have not been disturbed by my eye?"

"That is because I command the Mirror," she steadily replied with the hint of a smile lying within her voice. I simply turned my gaze from the basin to her. Not only was I becoming more perplexed by her faith in me, but I was also beginning to feel agitated from all the unnecessary attention. "What is reveals is chosen by me, but its images may be unbidden. Once I sensed your acceptance to learning of the Council in Rivendell, I instructed the Mirror to show you of the Fellowship. A reflection of what you call a dream was then sent through the travel of stars, though what you saw I know not of."

"I will tell you, my Lady, if you so desire." She didn't answer me. All she did was look down upon me with the same elegant, stoic mask she normally wore. So the decision was mine. And I truly did wish to tell her. "I saw the Fellowship… all nine of them. They were first placed upon stone, yet I knew not where. All were at peace until blackness engulfed the surrounding sky: Crebain from Dunland. They forced the Company to take the Pass of Caradhras. The falling of the snow-covered mountain was what turned them to the Mines of Moria. It was there they fought battles with Orcs, a Cave Troll, and finally the Barlog." I shifted my eyes away from the Lady's unwavering face as I finished my tale, "It was through a darkened canvas that I witnessed Mithrandir perish."

A somber expression passed through Lady Galadriel, but she turned from me before I internalized it. She remained silent for some time before finally whispering her thoughts, "All throughout Caras Galadhon will know of his passing before this day is done. Their voices will unite in song, a lament crafted just for him."

We returned to silence. I could not tell whether Lady Galadriel's call for me had been completed, so I remained rooted to my spot. She hadn't dismissed me, and I decided it would be discourteous to abandon the White Lady while her heart beat with woe. My own heart longed to travel back to the eight beings I was required to watch over.

At length Lady Galadriel turned back to me, "Do you know of the two important members in the Company?" The blank expression I sent must have been enough of an answer for her. "Of Aragorn, son of Arathorn, and Frodo Baggins?"

"The sullied Man and silent Hobbit?" I laughed, "How are they of any importance?"

The intimidating stare of her blue eyes instantly cut short of my laughter. Her voice then found its way back into my head, "Follow me."

Although initially upset with her for not simply explaining everything to me, I did as I was told. This time she took me to her small bookcase where a scroll panned across the entirety of a wooden desk. I was only able to read a few short sentences of it before Lady Galadriel distracted me with her calming voice, "What do you know of the history of Middle-earth?"

I immediately looked down in shame with cheeks undoubtedly appearing red. My fingers jumped across one another. "I… I never paid much attention to my history lessons, my Lady. I loathed the subject. My devotions instead fell to training and the learning of species. I wanted to know how to fight and what the weaknesses of my potential enemies would be."

"Then let me inform you," she replied without the least bit of resentment in her tone. "Aragorn is the heir of Isildur, rightful King of Gondor, and the only one able to wield the Sword that was Broken. He is both a Ranger from the North and of the Dúnedain. I have a granddaughter by name of Arwen to which he is bound to. The trinket he bares around his neck is a symbol of it."

Arwen… I remembered her. Vaguely, but enough to match her name with a face. What startled me most though was of Aragorn's heritage. Arathorn should have signaled him out in my mind from the moment I heard the name, and yet it hadn't. Had I truly paid such little attention? I questioned myself with a frown before looking back to Lady Galadriel.

"Well I certainly won't be calling my 'my Lord' anytime soon," I stated with a roll of my eyes. "Although the title is his to claim, he has yet to grasp it. We agreed to dismiss formalities anyway. Now… why is Frodo of importance?"

Lady Galadriel almost appeared hesitant as she locked eyes with me, "I will tell you of this, Nia, but it is of great secrecy. You must promise never to reveal it, even if withholding it leads to your death."

"I give you my word, Lady Galadriel. Death would be a welcoming companion if a foul situation ever arose. What you say next shall not escape my lips unless I am with council among those who already know."

"Then I hold your promise," she confirmed with a solid nod of her head. "The entirety of the Fellowship already knows of this as they were present at Lord Elrond's Council, so you need not feel hesitant around them. As for Frodo, he is the purpose behind this unusual gathering of races. He carries with him a Ring of Power. Do you know of those?"

"Yes!" I cried, or rather cheered at myself for remembering a piece of history. "Nineteen Rings of Power in total were crafted: three for the Elves, seven for the Dwarves, and nine for Men. But one other was secretly forged by the Dark Lord Sauron. He poisoned the greedy minds of those nine Men, changing them into the Nazgûl. That vile Ring has fallen into legend now. I think it would be best to simply avoid it at all costs, or I suppose destroy it if it were ever found." I paused for a breath, still smiling at my memory of a subject I find ill. "Which Ring is it that Frodo has stumbled upon?" When Lady Galadriel frowned, my smile was quick to follow. "Oh… he has that Ring."

Her hand absentmindedly stroked her right fingers, yet I could not see what she caressed. "Yes, Frodo is the barer of the One Ring. The fate of our world rests in his hands. If he should fail to destroy the Ring within the fires of Mount Doom, even Lórien will fall into shadow. To ensure his mission be a success, the Fellowship of the Ring was created in Rivendell. What was shown to you in your sleep were the challenges they faced so far. At the time, it appeared my Mirror had shown you things which had both occurred and had yet to pass. But now all is true in the present.

"The command of the Fellowship has now fallen upon Aragorn, although he may become uncertain of where to go in a most dire time. The death of Gandalf was not a wanted one. He created more than just a sorrowful heart amongst his friends." Lady Galadriel slowly made her way to stand before me as she next spoke, "Where once were nine, now there are eight. You know of this. Just as you may know the disadvantage the Company faces if they cross paths with all nine Nazgûl. There is an empty space within the Fellowship." She lightly placed her hands upon my shoulders. "An undesired hole in which you, Nia, must fill."

I stared at her. My jaw longed to fall toward the floor, but my lips protested and only allowed for a slight part to be displayed. I was too shocked by her suggestion to do much else. No words, no finger twitching, not even an attempt of backing way. Simply a silent gaze.

I was uncertain of how long I gracelessly gawked at Lady Galadriel. She never did seem to care for it though. Her eyes were stern, yet they twinkled with anticipation of my answer. They remained in this form even when I finally did step away from her grasp, "My Lady, are you… requesting… that I join their Fellowship?"

"No, Nia. I have confirmed many times that the decisions are yours alone."

"But," my eyes traced her emotionless face, "do you advise I go with them?"

"As much as I do not decide, I do not counsel; I am not a counselor." She fell back a little until both her hands rested upon the top of her desk. I remained rooted to my spot, uncertain what any movement may unintentionally say. "Although the gap left by Gandalf is burdened, I cannot foresee what may come of you or the Fellowship whether you join or not. Your life of learning has prepared you for perils the Company has yet to face just as much as it has for the Wardens of Lórien. Either course is honorable so long as you trust those amongst you."

My eyes shot to slivers and a mischievous grin spread through my lips the longer Lady Galadriel spoke. Her implication of joining the band of travelers initially shocked me, but that was only because of its suddenness. Now the idea intrigued me; even more so than when I conversed with Merry and Pippin the previous evening. I was hesitant then since I questioned my readiness and permission of attending. Lady Galadriel just disproved both of these by giving me consent and mentioning how I'd been preparing for nearly my entire life, although unbeknownst to me at the time.

When I traveled with my father as a child, we never went far; only to the closest of cities. Never would he allow me to accompany him on the more demanding expeditions. To travel beyond what I have already seen would truly be worth my while. There was an entire world I needed to discover, and the freedom to achieve just that was within my grasp. I was only one acceptance away from visiting new realms, belonging to a greater purpose, and possibly quenching my thirst for adventure. Maybe even saving the Middle-earth!

And trust. I must not forget about learning to trust these eight males. Lady Galadriel spoke of trust as though it was a necessity, and I definitely understood her position. The key element of achieving success within the marchwardens was entrusting ourselves with those around us. Without trust, we would fall apart.

I took a breath to agree to travel with the Fellowship, assuming they in turn accepted me, when something flashed through my mind. It was brief, and highly unexpected. For this something was actually a someone. A person I never thought would prevent me from following through with my intentions. So rather than release the 'yes' bubbling in my throat, a name was whispered. "Haldir."

She turned to me, an almost knowing look crossing her face. "What of Haldir?"

"My Lady, I cannot leave him," I confessed as my eyes boldly locked onto hers. "Although it is not by blood, he is that of a brother to me. Rúmil and Orophin are of the same nature, but it is with Haldir that I have the strongest bond. He assisted in both my studies and training. Long before my parents sailed he treated me as family. We have scarce been separated for more than a weeks end. The thought of being separated from Haldir and his brothers troubles me. I simply cannot do it."

"You and Haldir are bound to separate paths. He has a duty in Lórien such as you do to yourself." The Lady crossed to me again, except this time she stood back with her hands folded before her stomach. "However, if this is what you choose to do, so be it. The faith I have for you will not diminish simply because-"

"No!" I desperately cut in. "Staying is not my decision. Nor is leaving…" Her brows rose at my interjection, and I found my eyes no longer able to meet hers. "Once more I express my sincerest apologies for interrupting you, my Lady. I am finding my mind in a most unfavorable place, where confusion and despair come as one. Being uncertain of what I desire has only happened to me one other time, and even then I was distressed with it."

She reminded silent as I sorted out my mind. Leaving the comforts of Haldir and those I trust for an unpredictable journey shared with men I knew little to none of was certainly not what I wanted to do. On the other hand, passing up the opportunity to depart from my repeating daily life for a new perspective of the world around me was out of the question. This was an impossible choice.

I looked back to the Lady with almost hesitant eyes, "Is there any possibility I may have time left to think everything over?"

"There is time, although I know not how much. They could depart in the morning as easily as they could in a month's time. Though the longer they stay, the closer the enemy draws." Her words were uncomplimentary, yet wise. But time was all I cared for. As long as I didn't need to make a decision right there, even a few hours was welcomed. "Do know, Nia, that once the Company leaves Lórien, what you have chosen is final. There will be no going back."

"I feel as though my heart knew that… my brain just refused to accept it," I sadly shrugged.

"Yes, but does the brain ever listen?" Lady Galadriel lightly questioned. I was quick to respond with multiple eager head shakes, which only made her chuckle. The sound echoed that of beautiful chimes, resembling the same inviting tone I heard before drifting off into the important dream of mine. I offered a small smile at the familiarity of it. "Go now and ponder the future," she said with a single hand sweep to the doors. "Many thoughts must be passing through your mind. I also know of the task you have been assigned to by Haldir. They will need you shortly."

I glanced at the balcony to decipher the time of day. "Yes, I'm sure their supper will be ready shortly. The Hobbits will especially be awaiting my return then." Since the weight of a decision had been pushed back, Lady Galadriel appeared to be in a much lighter mood. Her smiles and laughter were coming at a much faster rate.

"Meeting and speaking with you has been an honor, my Lady. No galu govad gen. ~ May blessings go with you. ~" I curtsied before heading for the door. Before my fingers even wrapped around the handle, a voice stopped me.

"Are you prepared for the adventures awaiting you, regardless of which course you choose to partake?" Lady Galadriel called from behind.

A smirk firmly planted itself upon my face before I even turned back to her. "My Lady, I am always prepared for an adventure." I then exited with a musical giggle trailing behind.

Despite all around me being light, I was locked within a darkened room. Whenever a difficult decision faced me, my instincts guided me on the right path. Except this time even they held no answer for me.

I needed influence. And I needed it now.